Mental Health – In The Beginning

This week, as I wean off one anti-depressant so I can start another I find myself thinking about mental health more.

This is a hard subject for me, which if you’ve read my other posts that are full of personal information, you’re probably wondering why.

This will be my next series of posts, there is far too much to tackle to fit it all into one blog post.

I’ll start by sharing that one of my close friends completed suicide the summer before my freshman year of high school. It made know sense to me, we talked nearly every day on the phone that summer. He was in the ICU for some time before finally passing. While his pain was gone, my pain and confusion was just ramping up.

That summer I had also been passing out and having seizures which required a lot of tested and many medical appointments. So here I am, a 13 year old girl, dealing with a death and possibility of a pace maker in the same summer before entering my fist year of high school. One of these things is stressful enough, I’m sure you can imagine the toll three of them plus pubescent hormones had.

I remember one day at school was too much for me. I started hyperventilating, I cannot remember if I actually passed out but I do know that EMTs came to my school and I was lying of the ground in front of my locker with an defibrillator device attached to my chest.

That is when we had to tell everyone that if I pass out there were specific steps to take to bring me back and not to call 911. Embarrassed and traumatized from this mortifying event I found a place to lay every time I got dizzy or anxious after that.

Next post I’ll discuss stigma with mental health.

When Your Child is Sick for No Apparent Reason

I think as a parent with a chronic illness that can be passed down to your children it always sits somewhere in the back of your mind. For me, as a mother who was not diagnosed until after I had both of my kids I am in a frequent state of concern about my boys.

For the past few months, my youngest who is six, has been more clumsy than usual, complaining of headaches, stomach aches and other vague feelings of being unwell. I always ask about the last time he ate, or pooped, or had water. Try to think if the leg wobbles are from growing pains, or other normal things before I let the slight panic set in.

I know the likelihood of him having MS, especially at six is low. Though I had it when I was 13 they say to me now, because the health issue I had that started during my freshman year of high school has been linked now. After denial for a few weeks and he started asking me if I could make a doctor appointment for him. Normal kids don’t ask to go to the doctor, I told him I would, but that they may need pictures or blood if they weren’t sure what was wrong. He said ok, I knew it was serious because he was both ready and willing to have his blood drawn in order to figure out what was happening.

I’m going to skip over the first attempt at the blood draw at the pediatrician’s (who agreed, tests should be run) and move to our visit to CHildren’s Hospital after days and days of extra hydration before our second attempt for getting his blood. Deep veins are a problem I do not have, but my sweet little boy does. This makes it even more challenging when trying to assist the techs in holding a child who is sobbing from the pain of the band wrapped around their arm.

They eventually got the blood, and the techs were not enjoying the steps it took to finally get the blood from the rolling, deep veins so I will spare every mother the torment I went through sitting there with my youngest, but I will tell you, I hope to never have to go through that again.

The next day, the results were in the portal, having had blood tests done so frequently I know what is and is not normal for my body I was anxious at the results. A few things were flagged as high but I know that children’s blood work is different so I managed to stave of my panic a little longer before I called the doctor on the 3rd day.

Our pediatrician is great, they hadn’t received the results yet but the nurse logged into the portal, got the results and spoke with the doctor before calling me back. Over all, the kid is in good health, the few numbers that were high, in relation to all the other numbers was not a concern. At some point my little boy had EBV (mono) which is super weird if you ask me but apparently 95% of the world’s population has antibodies for this virus. His vitamin D is low, but that is hereditary and I have the same issue. Knowing that low vitamin D is linked to MS you better believe both my boys take supplements now, also advised by their doctor so I know the actual amount that will help them.

The next step is to set an appointment for him to see a Pediatric Orthopedist. Honestly, I am procrastinating this one because I hate the thought of putting this little human through so much medical testing already, but I know as his mother I will do whatever I can and need to in order for him to feel better.


Frustrated Youths

The media reports on suicides more now than ever before. Bullying from social media and in person seems to be rising. Mean kids have always been around though, teen suicide is not new. As far back as the Salem Witch Trials teens have played “mean girls”, accusing people they didn’t like of being a witch so that they must go on trial.

The summer before my freshman year in high school one of my closest male friends took his own life by jumping off a bridge into a large, rough river. He probably didn’t expect to be in a coma prior to finally succumbing to his choice, but his choice impacted many people. That’s what people who choose to end their lives don’t realize. Their suffering may end, but they leave behind a life time of memories and questions for those who care for them. It’s been more than 20 years and I still think about him around his birthday and the month he took his life every single year. Until I started therapy a couple of years ago I wasn’t entirely sure why I was so angry every year around these times. I never got to say good bye, I never got closure, with the help of my therapist I was able to resolve my anger and now I can think of him fondly when he comes to mind.

I have two boys, I am pretty sure they are happy kids. When I talk to them they tell me the good things in life, if they are having issues with peers we brainstorm on how we can resolve the conflicts or move past it. I do not want either of my kids to be the next statistic. It terrifies me every time I see another kid on the news who couldn’t handle it and completed suicide.

According to “Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after accidents and homicide. It’s also thought that at least 25 attempts are made for every completed teen suicide.”

This is heart breaking and should be to every parent out there. We need to talk to our kids. Pry if you must, this is our future generation and what kind of world will we have if the good kids, sensitive kids all disappear and are left mostly with the bullies? Mental health for everyone is important, no one should feel shame for having to work with a professional, there are so many ways of getting help now that you don’t even need to go into an office to talk to someone.

This hotline should be like poison control number on the magnet of parent’s fridges. You probably won’t need it, but it’s there just in case. 1-800-273-8255, if you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide or self harm.

Stats from the CDC:

  • Boys are 4 times more likely to die from suicide than girls.
  • Girls are more likely to attempt suicide than boys.
  • Guns are used in more than half of youth suicides.

Some of the leading causes of suicides in youth:

  • Changes in their families, such as divorce or moving to a new town
  • Changes in friendships
  • Problems in school
  • Other losses

Youth at higher risk of suicide:

  • One or more mental or substance abuse problems
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Undesirable life events or recent losses, such as the death of a parent
  • Family history of mental or substance abuse problems
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical, sexual, or verbal or emotional abuse
  • Past suicide attempt
  • Gun in the home
  • Imprisonment
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as from family or peers, in the news, or in fiction stories

Warning Signs that can also look like depression:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • Acting-out behaviors and running away
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Neglecting one’s personal appearance
  • Unnecessary risk-taking
  • Obsession with death and dying
  • More physical complaints often linked to emotional distress, such as stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Loss of interest in school or schoolwork
  • Feeling bored
  • Problems focusing
  • Feeling he or she wants to die
  • Lack of response to praise
  • Says “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide.”
  • Gives verbal hints, such as “I won’t be a problem much longer,” or “If anything happens to me, I want you to know ….”
  • Gives away favorite possessions or throws away important belongings
  • Becomes suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
  • May express weird thoughts
  • Writes 1 or more suicide notes